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New Zealand Food Safety is the primary government body responsible for managing food safety in New Zealand. Likewise, food safety standards are governed by the Food Act 2014. This article offers some food for thought if you are thinking of starting a food business in New Zealand. It will also consider requirements for packaging and labelling, and exporting food and drink outside of New Zealand. 

Starting a Food Business

If you’re planning on starting a new food business, you must follow these steps: 

  1. complete an online questionnaire about your business;
  2. based on your answers, New Zealand Food Safety will give you a food control plan to follow. Plans vary depending on whether you will be selling, transporting, importing or manufacturing.
  3. register your business, either with the local council or the Ministry for Primary Industries. This will depend on the type of business you run and where it is based. Your food control plan should help you confirm where to register your business; and
  4. once your plan is in place, you should engage a verifier to check that you are selling safe food. Your plan should confirm who this person is (usually someone from the local council). This step is especially vital if you are selling high-risk food, such as seafood or raw meat, to ensure you do not pass on food poisoning to your consumers. 

Food Control Plan

In certain circumstances, you do not need to get a food control plan. For example you:

  • only sell food to a small group of people;
  • only sell low-risk foods, such as pre-packaged goods that don’t require refrigeration;
  • run a small-scale catering (less than 20 times a year);
  • sell locally rather than nationally;
  • don’t sell to vulnerable people, such as young children, the elderly and pregnant women;
  • are fundraising and sell food less than 20 times a year;
  • are a club, organisation or society which hosts an event where the primary purpose is not to sell food; and
  • you are an accommodation provider who only provides snacks or breakfasts.  

However, even if you are exempt from obtaining a food control plan, you still need to adhere to food laws and ensure that your food is safe and suitable. Exemptions do not apply if: 

  • you sell high-risk foods, such as seafood or ready-meals; 
  • if you export your food overseas; 
  • if you make and sell food for vulnerable people; or 
  • if you use technically-complex processing methods to make your food product.


Food Safety Standards

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is the leading authority that develops food standards for Australia and New Zealand. FSANZ sets out food labelling standards in the Food Standards Code. In New Zealand, these standards are enforced by the Ministry for Primary Industries. 

As well as the Food Standards Code, local fair-trading laws and foods laws also apply to all representations made about food. These require that labels and statements about food for sale do not misinform customers and prohibit businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive claims. Food labels must contain an accurate name and description. For example, tomato soup should contain real tomatoes rather than tomato flavouring; otherwise, the packaging must describe it as tomato flavoured soup.

Packaging and Labelling

If food for sale is not packaged, it is not required to bear a label. However, packaged food for sale must specify certain information on their label, including: 

  • the name of the food;
  • lot identification; 
  • supplier’s name and address; 
  • advisory or warning statements; 
  • ingredients list; 
  • storage conditions and directions for use; and 
  • nutrition information. 

The contents of a label should be legible, prominent and in English. Warning statements on a label must be written in type size at least 3mm high, or 1.5mm high for small packages. 

Certain categories of packaged food also require further information on the label. For example, for juice blends, the label must specify the name and percentage of the volume of each juice.  For minced meat, the label must record the maximum proportion of fat. There are also strict requirements when packaging and labelling infant formula, including listing out the product ingredients, instructions for use, and the inclusion of a measuring scoop for preparation. 

Food sold from a vending machine must also prominently display the name and business address of the supplier of the vending machine.This information can also be displayed on the machine itself. Food sold to a caterer must set out similar information, either on the label (if any) or provided in the accompanying documentation. 

Alcoholic Food and Drinks

If you supply alcoholic beverages or food that contains 1.15% or more alcohol, you must include a statement of alcohol to the effect, “contains not more than X% alcohol by volume.” A drink containing more than 1.15% of alcohol by volume must not be represented as low alcohol and must include a pregnancy warning label.

Unlike in Australia, country-of-origin labelling is voluntary in New Zealand. An exception is if you label grape wine, then you must accurately label it with its country of origin. All food must be labelled with the supplier’s name and contact details so that a consumer can request further information.


New Zealand enjoys an excellent reputation for producing high-quality food. To maintain this, exporters must meet standards set by the Ministry for Primary Industries. There are different steps to follow depending on the products you export, although in general, as a food exporter you are responsible for:

  • meeting New Zealand’s relevant food safety standards; 
  • complying with legislation and eligibility requirements for the destination country;
  • reporting any non-conformance to these standards and requirements to the Ministry for Primary Industries; and
  • keeping accurate records. 

Depending on the product you export, you will also need to follow certain steps and notices, familiarise yourself with registers and lists of people, operators and associated business, and pay specific fees. 

Key Takeaways

There are strict rules and regulations that all food businesses in New Zealand must comply with, whether you are manufacturing, selling, transporting or exporting food. Different types of rules apply to new and existing food businesses, depending on the type of food sold and the labelling requirements associated with each product. If you need assistance with any food safety matters or are planning to start up a food business, LegalVision’s business lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.


When will I not need a food control plan?

In certain circumstances, you do not need to get a food control plan. For example, if you only sell food to a small group of people or you only sell low-risk foods, such as pre-packaged goods that don’t require refrigeration.

What are the laws surrounding food packaging?

Packaged foods must display information about the name of the food, lot identification, supplier’s name and address, advisory or warning statements, ingredients list, storage conditions and directions for use and nutrition information. 

What are the laws surrounding food exporting in New Zealand?

If you export food, you are responsible for meeting New Zealand’s relevant food safety standards, complying with legislation and eligibility requirements for the destination country, reporting any non-conformance to these standards and requirements to the Ministry for Primary Industries and keeping accurate records. 

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